A post shared by John Wilson (@jayswilson23) on Oct 10, 2017 at 11:29am PDT
Since I'm giving a presentation in this year’s CS Lewis Festival my Instagram search tab is full
of CS Lewis quotes under the heading 'things you might like'. I really have a
problem with this quote from the Problem of Pain and since I can’t argue with
Lewis I'm going to post it to random strangers (although Lewis later gainsaid much
of what he wrote in that book, in this instance in the very beautiful ‘What the Bird
Said Early in the Year’ in my view by talking about how redemption breaks the cycles that trap us). It may be easy to say you have a sore tooth, but less easy
to be open about a long term, very painful medical condition. Let me elaborate.
was remarkably good about expressing very painful emotional things. Letters
between Tolkien and Lewis after Tolkien's attacks on 'English in the Sixteenth
Century' and Lewis' marriage are so visceral that they are nearly unbearable to
read (although in our age they would probably just have texted 'soz, bro'),
culminating in Lewis’s generous spirited but agonising 'I love you and I miss you’, written in the year of his death.
'Surprised by Joy' is full of similar candour (although he wrote ’A Grief Observed'
under a pseudonym). Infact, Tolkien bewailed in a letter to his son that Lewis was
'the most impressionable of men', neglecting to guard his heart, the wellspring of
It is not easy to tell people that you are in daily pain, even on morphine and after
many surgeries, superdrugs and medical cannabis. It is not easier to deal with
physical pain over mental pain because long term physical pain, in my case 27
years of it, causes a high degree of mental pain – the pain of isolation because
your life cannot contain within it some of the things your peers treasure, not
being able to let anyone support you too closely or their lives will also be directed
by it to a certain degree, fearing a future in a medical institution with daily pain
assessments, losing battles such as my recent battle to be able to wear whatever
clothes I want. I'm sure when Lewis found himself in hospital after the Somme for
3 months having learned that the shell that injured him killed 2 of his comrades, it
was more painful to him that his father never visited than that he was wounded.
But that physical pain healed; it is not the same for people whose pain is chronic.
Imagine waking up in the morning in terrible pain, afraid to move because as soon
as you do the pain will be blinding. Getting out of a chair hurts. Opening a car
door really, really hurts. Walking hurts. Sitting in one place too long hurts… that is
not easier to deal with than burying half my family in my 20s and losing the only
person who would have understood what I'm saying now.
The bravest thing some people do is to get up in the morning, as brave as Lewis’s last letter to Tolkien or
his risking his academic career for writing about his faith. Today's prescribed pain management task for me is to write a list of things I can change and things I can't,
but I am a Christian and I don’t believe in impossibilities. As Lewis said in ‘What
the Bird Said Early in the Year’s, "we shall escape the circle and undo the spell".
Heartbreak and physical pain will not always hold power; they only pretend to
hold the future. I had a broken heart once. I had no sense of the future once but
today is a different matter. The real problem of pain (or more accurately with pain) is, in my view,is that it limits our
vision and there is more to our lives than what we can see.
Eve Williams will be presenting 'Tollers and Jack: The Myths of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis' at this year's C.S. Lewis Festival in Belfast on Monday 20th November at 1pm.
A post shared by Eve Williams (@evewilliamsmusic) on Jun 29, 2017 at 3:28pm PDT